Pharmacoeconomists analyze the social, administrative and economic costs and benefits of pharmaceuticals and healthcare. Learn about careers in this field, educational requirements, areas of study and degree coursework.
As its name suggests, pharmacoeconomics combines the study of pharmacy and economics. As a pharmacoeconomist, you'll study the costs and benefits of drugs, other medical therapies and healthcare policies. You determine whether a drug or therapy is cost-effective, and you might assess whether patients would be willing to pay for various healthcare interventions.
Job opportunities in pharmacoeconomics can be found in academia, government, managed healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. A variety of educational and career backgrounds can help prepare you for this field, including economics, healthcare systems and policy, medicine and pharmacy. You need specialized training to become a pharmacoeconomist.
In addition to a degree, an interest in healthcare costs and pharmaceuticals and a good understanding of mathematical models might serve you well in this field. Although you may work under limited direction, many careers in this field require you to work as part of a multi-disciplinary research team.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect employment or salary information for pharmacoeconomics careers specifically, it does collect information about pharmacists, including those with pharmacy industry jobs, and economists, both of which include job duties found in the field of pharmacoeconomics. The BLS reports that jobs for both pharmacists and economists are expected to increase 14% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov); this rate of change is slightly better than the average across all occupations during that same 10-year period. Pharmacists earned mean annual pay of $116,500 in 2013, per the BLS, while economists earned $101,450. Pharmacists who worked in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing earned average annual pay of $122,010, and economists who worked in research and development earned mean pay of $104,270.
No standard educational path exists for a pharmacoeconomics career. You can enter this field with a background in economics as well as a variety of clinical and scientific backgrounds. There are graduate programs specific to pharmacoeconomics - typically available through either a pharmacy or healthcare management department - that can help you prepare for this field. These programs require you to have completed either a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program or to complete a pharmacoeconomics program in conjunction with a Pharm.D. program. There are also programs that accept applicants with undergraduate degrees in pharmacy, biological sciences, chemistry or allied health sciences. Fellowships and internships are available to help you get started in this field.
Topics of study in a pharmacoeconomics program might include pharmaceutical sciences, statistical methods, pharmacy administration, research techniques, pharmaceutical microeconomics, pharmacy benefits management and health policy planning. You might also study pharmacoeconomics modeling and ethics in drug development.
Master's degree programs in pharmacoeconomics take about two years of full-time study to complete. In rare cases, master's programs in this field are available online. A master's degree could prepare you for entry- and mid-level research positions within pharmaceutical companies, research organizations or academia. For example, you might work as a health outcome scientist, research associate or program manager.
A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Pharmacoeconomics may be useful for a mid-level or higher scientific or academic position, such as a college professor. A doctoral degree may also be required to advance to leadership or management positions in pharmacoeconomics. A Ph.D. program differs from a master's program in that it teaches you to conduct independent research programs. It also takes longer to complete - at least 2-4 years beyond a Pharm.D. or four or more years beyond a master's program - and you complete a more complex research project for a dissertation or Ph.D. thesis.
You typically need a master's degree to be accepted into a doctoral program, but some schools accept exceptional candidates with a bachelor's degree or allow you to pursue both degrees at once. If you already have a doctorate in another area, post-doctoral programs are available that allow you to specialize in pharmacoeconomics.